The Woodland Trust was built on the foundation of our woodland estate and, although we now deliver our charitable aims in a range of ways, the woods and open ground we manage remain an important part of what we do. Our new document ‘Management of our Woods’ outlines how and why we manage our sites.
We now own over 1,000 sites across the UK, covering in excess of 23,000ha.This includes more than 4,000ha of ancient semi-natural woodland, and 3,000ha of non-native conifer plantations on ancient woodland sites (PAWS). We have created over 5,000ha of new native woodland. Our estate includes more than 200 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and we manage some extensive areas of valuable open ground habitats, from upland bogs to lowland heaths, as well as features of archaeological and cultural interest.
Our sites range from very small – just 0.06ha -to our largest sites at Glen Finglas (4,875ha) in the Trossachs National Park. We have ancient woodland sites as well as secondary woodland, coppice woods and wood pasture, and sites with ancient trees. Around 30 per cent of our woods are in urban areas. Over 65 per cent are less than 10 ha in size, and 45 per cent are less than 5 ha.
In short, they are many and varied. This creates challenges and requires a flexible approach to the practical difficulties in managing small, sometimes isolated rural woods, urban woods often under intense pressure from heavy use and abuse – such as fly tipping – as well as the more familiar woodland management issues. As our woods are open free for access on foot, ensuring public safety is of critical importance.
Our woodland management is driven by our particular charitable purposes, to maintain and improve biodiversity, and to increase people’s understanding and enjoyment of woodland. Every woodland owner will have their own objectives and their own priorities for management; we support sustainable forest management and the important contribution of timber production and woodfuel to the UK economy.
We spend around £4.5million a year on managing our woods, of which around £2.3 million is spent on improving and maintain access and involving people, £1.2 million on woodland creation and £1 million on work to improve biodiversity, the rich multitude of species and habitats which woodland supports. Much of the money to fund management comes from the generosity of our supporters. Income from timber harvesting, corporate sponsorship and a range of grants also support our management costs.
Wildlife and habitats
Management of ancient woodland requires particular care to ensure the protection of features of high conservation value. This might be ancient or veteran trees, old lime coppice stools, important ground flora, fungi, deadwood beetles, birds, butterflies and a whole range of other wildlife. We have produced a guide to Ancient Woodland Management which covers this in more detail.
Woodland creation provides the opportunity to locate woodland where it can benefit people and wildlife most, whether this is new accessible woodland for people to enjoy, or buffering existing ancient woodland and extending the woodland resource. We create new native woodland through both tree planting and natural regeneration, depending on the circumstances, including the opportunity to involve people in tree planting.
All semi-natural habitats are valuable. We own around 4000 ha of open ground habitats including grassland, bog, upland moorland and wet habitats, which we manage to maintain the wildlife they support through active management which, in the case of grassland and moorland habitats, can include the maintenance or reintroduction of grazing.
Enjoying the woods
We believe that positive and inspirational experience of woods from a young age is a key step towards long-term care for the environment; we would like more people to enjoy visiting woodland. Our sites are open free for people to enjoy, and the Visitwoods website aims to provide information on these and other accessible woods in both private and public ownership.
Events and activities at our woods are advertised locally or via our website, and we encourage exploration through onsite interpretation and signs, supported by online information such as maps. In particular we want children to play in and enjoy woods.
Many of our sites managers are supported by volunteers who undertake various tasks; from keeping a watching eye on the wood, completing flora and fauna surveys, through to woodland creation and woodland management. In some cases local communities and volunteers take on the day-to-day care and management of their local site, such as at Pepper Wood in the West Midlands.
We believe there is enormous value in local people taking a greater stake in the management of our woods, and are open to transferring sites to communities where they can continue to provide the wider local benefits. Above all we want people to enjoy woods and all wonderful the things that they provide.
Mike Townsend, Communications and Evidence Adviser